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Review: Every Brilliant Thing at the Barrow Street Theatre

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Review: Every Brilliant Thing at the Barrow Street Theatre

Like many shows that rely heavily on audience participation, one is likely to encounter a bit of hesitation at the start of Every Brilliant Thing. In the intimate black box of the Barrow Street Theatre, bereft of set and decoration, audiences are quick to laughter, like nervous strangers on a blind date, as they navigate the rules of a space where there’s no fourth wall to provide the warm comfort of anonymity. Will this be corny, one worries, or embarrassing?

Those questions inevitably arise as Jonny Donahoe, the chubby and likable—in that uniquely British way that’s hard to express or deny—solo performer in the show he co-wrote with Duncan Macmillan and premiered in England, begins a monologue about growing up with a suicidal mother. But they don’t linger long. Donahoe, a stand-up comedian in the U.K., has the peculiar ability of those successful in his profession, much like preachers and motivational speakers, of almost instantly endearing himself to an entire room full of people. There’s nothing natural about this, and yet Donahoe makes it seem inevitable that we’ll all like and listen to him.

The list of “every brilliant thing” (that is, “everything worth living for”), our narrator tells us, began after his mother attempted suicide for the first time. As he recounts the sobering events surrounding that period of his childhood, seated audience members are asked to read out additions to the compendium, including pleasures as simple and tangible as ice cream and as abstract as “deciding you’re not too old to climb trees.” Others in the audience are asked to stand up and assume a character in the narrator’s tale (his father, his schoolteacher, his lover), guided by prompts Donahoe provides aloud.

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At first, it’s not quite clear how audiences are meant to treat this exercise. “No, this is a British show,” Donahoe chides playfully, after theatergoers start to applaud the bespectacled, gray-haired man first selected to play a larger part. “Maybe at the end, one clap and a nod.” While clapping may not be encouraged, Donahoe does surely want us to laugh—and he succeeds. When a man enlisted to assume the character of a veterinarian putting Donahoe’s dog, Sherlock Bones, to sleep, Donahoe asks him to inject the “animal,” represented by the man’s coat, in the thigh with a pen. “No, the thigh,” Donahoe hilariously corrects, after the man presumably chooses the wrong side of the coat to jab.

As the show goes on, and the narrator chronicles his years in college and beyond, his own struggle with depression, his growing, colossal list of brilliant things, as well as his mother’s subsequent suicide attempts, something peculiar happens: Donahoe almost entirely stops feeding the recurring characters lines. And yet, unguided, they somehow instinctively know what to say. Their improvised lines, even when monosyllabic, are perfect. Upon seeing them a second or third time, it’s clear: These unsuspecting theatergoers have in fact become those characters, as persuasively as Donahoe embodies his. It’s not quite magic, but it’s something close to it, one of those incredible, transformative phenomena of collective imagination.

When it comes to the subject of suicide, Every Brilliant Thing avoids nearly every pitfall. It’s subtle when it could be maudlin, light when it could be overwhelmingly harrowing. Of course, things occasionally get a little syrupy: “I have some advice for anyone who has been contemplating suicide,” the narrator says, basking in the glow of new love after a “difficult” Christmas. “It’s really simple advice. It’s this: Don’t do it. Things get better. They might not always get brilliant. But they get better.” But surely you’ll forgive sentiments like these—perhaps because you want so badly for them to be true.

Look: It’s been a hell of a month in New York, full of anger and sadness, divisiveness and distrust, a reminder that the social contracts that keep this city from falling apart are as fragile as life itself. If only there were a venue large enough for everyone here to see Every Brilliant Thing all at once, as an antidote to these unfortunate truths, so we could remember the remarkable, beautiful things we can create when we work together, and the simple joys of living, even in a world so often dark and imperfect, and so easily broken.

Every Brilliant Thing is now running at the Barrow Street Theatre.

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Watch: The Long-Awaited Deadwood Movie Gets Teaser Trailer and Premiere Date

Welcome to fucking Deadwood!

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Deadwood
Photo: HBO

At long last, we’re finally going to see more of Deadwood. Very soon after the HBO series’s cancellation in 2006, creator David Milch announced that he agreed to produce a pair of two-hour films to tie up the loose ends left after the third season. It’s been a long road since, and after many false starts over the years, production on one standalone film started in fall 2018. And today we have a glorious teaser for the film, which releases on HBO on May 31. Below is the official description of the film:

The Deadwood film follows the indelible characters of the series, who are reunited after ten years to celebrate South Dakota’s statehood. Former rivalries are reignited, alliances are tested and old wounds are reopened, as all are left to navigate the inevitable changes that modernity and time have wrought.

And below is the teaser trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAcftIUE6MQ

Deadwood: The Movie airs on HBO on May 31.

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Watch: Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Gets Teaser Trailer

When it rains, it pours.

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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Photo: Columbia Pictures

When it rains, it pours. Four days after Quentin Tarantino once more laid into John Ford in a piece written for his Beverly Cinema website that saw the filmmaker referring to Ford’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon as Tie a Yellow Ribbon, and two days after Columbia Pictures released poster art for QT’s ninth feature that wasn’t exactly of the highest order, the studio has released a teaser for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The film was announced early last year, with Tarantino describing it as “a story that takes place in Los Angeles in 1969, at the height of hippy Hollywood.”

Set on the eve of the Manson family murders, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood tells the story of TV actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), as they try to get involved in the film industry. The film also stars Margot Robbie (as Sharon Tate), Al Pacino, the late Luke Perry, Damian Lewis, Dakota Fanning, Emile Hirsch, Timothy Olyphant, Kurt Russell, and Bruce Dern in a part originally intended for the late Burt Reynolds.

See the teaser below:

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Scf8nIJCvs4

Columbia Pictures will release Once Upon a Time in Hollywood on July 26.

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Watch the Stranger Things 3 Trailer, and to the Tune of Mötley Crüe and the Who

A wise woman once said that there’s no such thing as a coincidence.

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Stranger Things 3
Photo: Netflix

A wise woman once said that there’s no such thing as a coincidence. On Friday, Jeff Tremaine’s The Dirt, a biopic about Mötley Crüe’s rise to fame, drops on Netflix. Today, the streaming service has released the trailer for the third season of Stranger Things. The clip opens with the strains of Mötley Crüe’s “Home Sweet Home,” all the better to underline that the peace and quiet that returned to the fictional rural town of Hawkins, Indiana at the end of the show’s second season is just waiting to be upset again.

Little is known about the plot of the new season, and the trailer keeps things pretty vague, though the Duffer Brothers have suggested that the storyline will take place a year after the events of the last season—duh, we know when “Home Sweet Home” came out—and focus on the main characters’ puberty pangs. That said, according to Reddit sleuths who’ve obsessed over such details as the nuances of the new season’s poster art, it looks like Max and company are going to have to contend with demon rats no doubt released from the Upside Down.

See below for the new season’s trailer:

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEG3bmU_WaI

Stranger Things 3 premieres globally on July 4.

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